Wednesday of Week 1 of Advent – First Reading

Commentary on Isaiah 25:6-10

Both readings today are about the abundance that comes from God. The theme of an eschatological banquet is common in early Jewish and early Christian literature. In Matthew’s Gospel, after healing the centurion’s servant, Jesus says:

I tell you, many will come from east and west and will take their places at the banquet with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven… (Matt 8:11-12)

And again, in Matthew (22:1-14) and in Luke (14:16-24), Jesus tells the parable of the banquet to which those invited made excuses not to come.

As in the Gospel parables, in our First Reading from Isaiah, there is a universal tone to the words:

The Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.

It is not just for God’s people. People from all nations will pour in to join this immense banquet with the Lord. God calls every single person to experience his love and share his eternal presence.

It is not surprising that this image should be used as a vision of the future life. It was used by peoples who all too often experienced hunger and thirst brought on by drought, floods and poverty. A future life beyond death was easily conceived as an unending banquet at a table groaning with rich food and the finest drinks, things which in this life only the tiny minority of the rich could enjoy. Today’s Gospel about the feeding of the 5,000 in the desert confirms what the prophet is foretelling.

At the same time, the Lord will put an end to death, symbolised by the shroud that envelopes the peoples and the sheet covering the nations. In fact, “Death has been swallowed up in victory”, a phrase quoted by Paul (1 Cor 15:54).

Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces…

Later, in the Book of Revelation we read in the hymn to those who have sacrificed their lives for the Gospel that:

God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (Rev 7:17)

And again in Revelation:

He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more.
(Rev 21:4)

In the Third Eucharistic Prayer, when we pray for the dead, we also say:

There we hope to share in your glory when every tear will be wiped away.

Then, about Mount Zion on which the Temple of Jerusalem was built, the prophet says:

For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain.

With the coming of God (remember we are in Advent and Jesus is on the way), there comes comfort in all our sorrows – “Every tear will be wiped away”. This is what salvation means – the fulfilling of all our needs: spiritual, emotional, social and physical. What is promised in Isaiah will become a reality in Jesus.

In our world today we live with abundant food production that serves us even with our population growth. Yet, there is hunger, malnutrition and other unmet needs. We, God’s stewards, are failing in our task of distribution. It is certainly not the fault of God that our brothers and sisters go hungry…it is ours.

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